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Family Tree

Manola Gonzalez Rosillo

MY MOTHER IS still alive and I do not answer her phone call.

My mother is still alive and I’m not in the mood to talk, so I mute my cell. I text her back, promising to call again tomorrow.

I call back, and while we talk I think of my grocery list, of my evening plans. My mother makes me laugh and I tell her I’m going to make dinner, love you, bye.

My mother is still alive and I tell her I will move back soon, but not quite yet. Don’t give me that kind of pressure, Mama, I’m too young to worry about that.

She is still alive and I say I’ll be home for a couple of days in the summer. My mother sees big things for my life, she promises. I say ‘quien sabe Mama,’ and she says ‘Dios.’

When I cannot calm down, my mother who is still alive convinces me out of myself and into someone else.

She is excited for grandchildren, for a big house like Downton Abbey, generations of us flooding the fields like Labradors.

I wake to morning texts I don’t answer. I map out visions of her youth and mine, parallel.

My mother is still alive and I promise her everything she asks for. I hope to make up for a lifetime of sacrifices.

At night, when I cannot sleep, instead of counting sheep I count the years I hope she has left to live.


I AM CHASING my childhood in circles, around subway poles and culs de sac.

I’m looking for my father from before, the one from an empty house in a new country. This is the father who sleeps on the floor shielding his children, our bodies a heap of Barbie sleeping bags.

But perhaps I am actually looking for the father from before then, the one I do not know. The father who snuck off to the market to buy lobster and champagne on a Tuesday, my mother furious, what a waste of money!

This father sang often, his guitar perfectly shaped to sit on his thigh, soon replaced by a sleeping baby, and then by another, and then by another house, and another,

Until he lay, in darkness, in wait, for what bad would come.


YOU ARE TOLD that White boys will make better fathers.

You learn that White boys are still just boys, not better or worse than anything you’ve met before.

When you love, you cry in paternal and maternal. Eventually you learn to speak in jokes, but at night your dreams are restless, hungry and aching.

Years pass. When you wake, you forgive your father, and his, and your grandmother who blessed you with her love of cruel men and this country.

You look out at a limp crescent moon.

Yes, you say, I love America, and sometimes he loves me.


Raised on sea salt and carne asada fries, Manola Gonzalez Rosillo left her hometown of San Diego to obtain her BA in English and French literature from the University of Pennsylvania. She later received her Master in Fine Arts from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, Columbia Journal, and Longreads. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY — you can find her trying to pet neighborhood dogs, or alternatively, here.


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